Practical cyber defences for small businesses – The Potential Threats

In the modern world, everything we do – both when working and in our spare time – is done digitally. In fact, we rely on technology for absolutely everything! Therefore, with cyber attacks on the rise, cyber security should be one of the main concerns in business. Not only has the likelihood of your business being attacked risen over recent times, but the criminals carrying out the attacks aren’t even professionals any more. Gone are the days of ‘the Hollywood hacker’ – the tech geniuses in a dark room with hundreds of monitors (although this probably does still happen) – cyber attacks can now be carried out by comparatively non-specialist individuals. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused our reliance on technology to complete our jobs to reach staggering levels, and this, along with the already growing technological landscape we have grown accustomed to, has made the likelihood of cyber criminals targeting your business highly probable.

In the remainder of the blog series, we will aid you in becoming familiar with the threats that have the potential to cause havoc on your systems. We will then highlight the various ways that you can make your systems safer and lower the likelihood of a successful attack.

Small businesses should worry about cyber security too

Is cyber security that important? The answer – quite simply – is yes, and this can’t be stressed enough!

As we stated previously, our reliance on technology is at the highest point it has ever been, and this reliance will only increase. This reliance and, in most cases, inept use of technology highlighted a unique and never before seen opportunity for cyber criminals. It has allowed them, once having gained control – or even just access to your systems, to be able to change the face of your organization forever with just the touch of a few buttons. This can all be done sometimes without your even knowing they are in your systems.

Business owners worldwide predominantly overlook the importance of cyber security. They don’t spend enough time preparing their systems for the potentially business-defining ramifications of a business wide cyber attack, resulting in their cyber landscape often being left vulnerable and easily accessible by cyber criminals. Would you leave your front door open when you go out? No? Well, that is what you are doing if you don’t adequately protect your systems.

We will now take a closer look at the methods cyber criminals use to gain access to your systems and undergo their attack.

 

The potential threats

Phishing

Phishing scams are the most common method of all cyber attacks. They come in a variety of different forms but the most common is through the use of identity trickery, which is done to extract sensitive information from their unsuspecting victim – who often won’t know they have done something they shouldn’t until quite some time later. The cyber criminal adopts the identity of someone trusted within the company or at the very least familiar to the target individual (a bank, for example).

These attacks are predominantly carried out via email, just because email is by far the easiest way to reach their desired individual and also because email – during the hustle and bustle of a busy workday – is one of the few ways the attack may slip through, and the façade be believed.

Malware

Malware is software designed with the sole intention of causing harm/ damage. Malware is unique in the fact that it can work in the background without the user’s knowledge. It is also more commonly managed by a group as opposed to an individual – this group’s soul intention is to make money. The group will either use the Malware themselves or sell the Malware over the Dark Web to other cyber criminals around the world.

Ransomware

Ransomware is an attack that relies upon the panic of the user. The way the attack is undertaken is by the Hackers infecting a device – or, if the attack is large scale, then the entire system. They then send a message to the user demanding a fee under the promise that they will be given the decryption key in order to regain access to their IT landscape.

The cyber criminals cause panic in the user by threatening to delete – or, arguably, even worse – distribute the organization’s sensitive data. The pressure to pay, the stress of the situation, and often pure desperation often leads the individual to simply pay their attackers in the hope that they regain control. DO NOT PAY! Under no circumstances should you pay the cyber criminals – the likelihood of them simply handing you back the keys to your kingdom are very slim, and they may even ask for more money once you have proved you are willing and able to pay.

The way to deal with a Ransomware attack is to avoid becoming a victim in the first place. This can only be achieved by being properly educated on the risks and remaining alert to those risks, whilst also having technical security defences in place.

For the last part of the blog we will explore some of the ways you can go about defending your technological landscape.

 

Defend your systems against the threats

The defences can be segmented into three areas, all of which complement each other but each individually requiring time and concentration to ensure that the measures taken are best equipped for the fight at hand.

Tech

The market is saturated with different tools to defend your systems in the event of a cyber attack (some will be explored in the next and last blog in the series). The correct technical controls will act as preventative measures against even the most sophisticated of cyber attacks. They will also monitor and protect the data leaving your landscape (destined for elsewhere) to be sure it is safe and that it doesn’t pose a risk to the organization.

Depending on the level of security you think your organization needs, you can take a step beyond the ‘every day’ cyber security tools and delve deeper into what the market has to offer – endpoint detection and response, for example – but, as we said, this level of defence will be your decision. The sky is the limit when it comes to cyber security but the higher you get the more expensive those measures are going to become.

Policy

As much as the market is saturated with defensive tools, it is essential that your systems still allow your users to complete their daily tasks to the very best of their ability – this means they need to be confident with the new tech.

In order to guarantee this, the effective, compliant, and most security minded approach when it comes to using the new technology is essential. It is also imperative that you implement strict policies, which should have serious ramifications if not abided by, and thereby giving your users the push they need to ensure that the cyber risk to the business is low.

Education

Once having implemented technology capable of defending your systems and policies around the use of that technology, the next step is to educate your users on how to utilize it to its full potential in the most effective way possible. By doing this you have written proof that you did your utmost to ensure that your ‘human Firewall’ is 100% up to date and familiar with how to use the tools, as well as their importance in the defence of the organization.

Why spend capital on industry leading technical defences, and spend time creating and implementing policies around the use of them, if your users aren’t educated on not only how to use them but the threats that they are defending the system against?

In the last blog in the series we will explore the technical measures in more detail, as well as an accreditation that can ease your cyber security worries.

Work Securely

Since 1996 we have prided ourselves on providing professional IT support for businesses in and around Salinas, California. We excel in giving our clients enterprise-level services and solutions at prices that work for small businesses. We can recommend and provide the tools needed to enable your business’ operations to be undergone safely and mitigate the risk of cyber threats. This may seem a daunting and somewhat expensive process, but we will work alongside you to find a solution that works for the way you do business as cost-effectively as possible. Book a free consultation call today and find out what improvements you can make to your systems.

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